By Craig Kwasniewski
The Toronto Raptors are way too talented to be struggling to make the playoffs. They have Chris Bosh, a borderline superstar, Hedu Turkoglu, the go to guy from the Eastern Conference Champions, Andrea Bargnani, the feisty 7-footer with three point range, Jose Calderon, a very capable point guard and a slew of young, long and athletic wings... yet they're struggling at 32-32 and barely holding on to the 8 seed in the east.
I saw them earlier in the week come within another Kobe Bryant game-winner from beating the defending champs. They had the Lakers on the ropes all game with scambling defense and outside shooting from all five spots. This was the team Bryan Colangelo assembled, European-style on offense with just enough defense... then they laid back-to-back eggs against Sacramento and Golden State. So why are they struggling?
Chris Webber, during NBA TV's broadcast on Tuesday night, pointing out one reason the Raps can't seem to find their way:
What I do see from Toronto right now is no leadership. I don't know who the leader is on Toronto because no one's taken it out and said you don't shoot this shot, come on, hold it up. I don't see that on this team. And if you don't have a leader on a team you can not win.
C-Webb said this with 4 minutes left and the Raptors trailing the Lakers by 4 on their way to another loss. Who was the clear-it-out-and-give-me-the-damn-ball guy? Didn't they sign Hedu to do the same role as he did with Orlando?
(Yes folks, Hedo was the clutch guy with the Magic, which is why I'm real curious to see if Vince Carter can actually be that guy in Orlando... you know, because he's never been that guy ever. Half-man, half-amazing yet not really clutch in the playoffs... but I digress...)
Anyway, on Tuesday Bosh hit a HUGE three to tie up the game with 9 seconds left, but I didn't get the feeling he was demanding the ball. He was just left open because the Lakers saw him as the last option when down three. So who's THE GUY on Toronto?
Maybe it was what C-Webb said last Tuesday night or maybe it was just a great player in a contract year tired of his team under-achieving, but Chris Bosh finally spoke up and called out his teammates. According to yahoo.com:
It’s like if you look at the schedule right now and see Toronto, I’m sure people are checking something in the win box. I can understand if we lose the game going down fighting but we’re not fighting at all. Time is ticking and it’s counting down, and if we keep playing the way we are right now, we’re going to be on the outside looking in. Guys need to step it up, period.
Asked what Toronto needs to do to turn things around, Bosh—the franchise leader in points, rebounds and blocked shots—was succinct in his reply.
Just do it. Act like you care. I’m going down playing offense on (the Warriors) side of the court and their bench is louder than we are. That doesn’t make any sense. They’re not playing for anything. We’re trying to make the playoffs, maybe get a fifth seed, but that’s like slipping every day. This isn’t playoff basketball.
Strong words and very unusual in today's game for a star to call out his teammates, but it's the right thing to say and the right time to do it. There's time to turn this around and move up a few spots (read: avoid Orlando and Cleveland in the 1st round)... well said Chris... both Bosh and Webber. And maybe this is Bosh's way of saying, this is my team and I want to lead it to the next level. THAT we shall see in the next few weeks.